Connecting With Collaborative Leadership #TChat Recap

Early in March, I wrote a column for, focused on the consequences of collaboration. It was based on a simple but powerful premise:

Collaboration is the keystone of leadership success.

By coincidence, only days later I met Dan Pontefract, who introduced me to a theory he brings to life in his new book, “Flat Army: Creating a Connected And Engaged Organization.”

From the moment I skimmed the pages of Flat Army, I knew that this would be a profoundly rewarding “mind meld” relationship. That seems to be happening more frequently these days. I guess it’s one of the perks of spending most of my waking hours connecting with people who are on missions to unleash the best of human potential in the world of work.

During the months that have followed since I met Dan, he and his “Flat Army” open leadership model have validated what I have always believed:

Collaboration isn’t about being best friends, or even necessarily liking everyone you work with. It is about putting your baggage aside, bringing your best self to the table, and focusing on a common goal — a higher purpose.

Finding Proof: What’s On Your List?

Here’s why collaboration can make a difference. Take a quick moment, and make a list five products or services that you that you never want to live without. No rush — I’ll wait. OK. Got your list? Here’s mine: The iPhone. Downton Abbey. Pinterest. Kit-Kat Bars. Twitter.

Now, guess what? Every one of those items is the result of a successful collaboration. And I bet there’s a team effort behind every one of your “must haves,” too. Sure, some half-crazy genius like Steve Jobs may bring inspiration to the table. But inspiration without collaboration is just a lot of great ideas that easily vaporize before they see light of day.

Collaboration: Why And How

Hopefully, I’ve made a convincing case for WHY collaboration counts. But that’s only part of the equation. We also need a roadmap for HOW to make it happen. And Dan’s “Flat Army” is just the ticket. Together, our vision is complete. “Just like peas-and-carrots,” as Forrest Gump might say. Or at least that’s how I see it!

So this week, it seemed natural to fire-up the TalentCulture social engine, and ask all of you to weigh-in with your ideas about both the “why” and “how” of collaborative leadership. And as always, we weren’t disappointed!  I invite you all to review this week’s highlights and resources below. And I thank you all for your collaborative contributions — this week and every week.

As I said in closing my Forbes post (and as I believe even more strongly now), if you want to see what the potential for collaborative success looks like, you don’t need to look far, my fellow community members. Just look in the mirror. It starts with you.

#TChat Week In Review

WED 6/5


Watch the G+ Hangout now

Introductory Post: Our guest, Dan Pontefract, Senior Director, Learning & Collaboration at TELUS and author of Flat Army, framed the week’s topic in a special post, The Future of Work: An Army Of Open Leaders.

SAT 6/8

#TChat Preview + Sneak Peek Videos: Our Community Manager Tim McDonald, briefly interviewed Dan in a G+ Hangout. See the video in Tim’s post: “Open Leadership: Going Deep.”

SUN 6/9 Post: In my weekly Forbes column, I examined some ways leaders can effectively connect with their teams. Read “Open Up and Lead.”

TUE 6/11


Listen to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio: I sat down with Dan to discuss in more detail the power of open leadership — not only in the office but in society as well. Listen to the recording now: How Open Leaders Win Employee Hearts and Minds.

WED 6/12

#TChat Twitter: #TChat-ters joined us on Twitter to share opinions and ideas about the role and impact of open leadership in today’s world of work. If you missed the event, or want to review highlights, watch the slideshow digest below:

#TChat Highlights: Open Leadership, Going Deep

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to guest Dan Pontefract! We’re inspired by your example and your passion for learning and leadership.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about your experience with workplace collaboration, learning and leadership? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, the Society For Human Resource Management annual conference takes Chicago by storm (#SHRM13)! That means we won’t have a Tuesday Radio show. But fear not! #TChat co-creator, KevinWGrossman and I will be reporting from the floor throughout the week — and we’ll drive two #TChat LIVE events:

1) A special “Margarita Meetup” panel discussion on Monday at 3:15pm in the Achievers booth;
2) A related #TChat session at our regular 7pm time on Wednesday.

For more details, see our related post: “Feeling The Future Of Work: #TChat Meets #SHRM13.” And join us anytime on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. The gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you — if not at #SHRM13, then most definitely on the stream!

(Editor’s Note: To see the original article by Meghan M. Biro, read  Smart Leaders And The Power Of Collaboration.)

Open Leadership: Going Deep #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking to see all resources for this week’s topic? Read the #TChat Recap: Connecting With Collaborative Leadership.)

Think back for a moment on your career. Who’s been your favorite boss? How would you describe that person’s leadership style?

Is it a command-and-control approach, driven by business goals and results? Or does that leader win support, loyalty and cooperation by putting people first?

Hands down, I bet you picked someone from the second category — someone who embraces the social side of leadership. After all, studies reveal that your relationship with your manager is a key to engagement. And it’s natural to think favorably of professional experiences that engaged you.

You Had Me At “Hello”

This week’s #TChat guest, Dan Pontefract, calls this social-minded manager an “open leader.” And in his new book, Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization, Dan says it’s time for companies to move the open leader concept to a whole new level. As he explains in a recent TalentCulture post, the future of work depends upon army “open leaders,” where everyone in a company drives collaboration, regardless title or role.

For Dan, this is much more than a theory. As Senior Director of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS, he knows first-hand about the challenges and benefits of leadership development, workforce engagement and business performance. That’s why we’ve asked him to lead the way through #TChat discussions this week.

To give you a better taste of what the topic is all about, I spoke briefly with Dan in a G+ Hangout video. Check it out:

#TChat Events: How Open Leaders Win Hearts & Minds


Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

This topic touches on so many areas of interest and expertise across the TalentCulture community. I know many of you have related insights to add, so I hope you’ll join this week’s conversation!

#TChat Radio — Tue, June 11 at 7:30pmET/4:30pmPT – Dan joins our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, for a LIVE 30-minute radio interview, where listeners are invited to call-in with questions.

#TChat Twitter — Wed, June 12 at 7pmET/4pmPT – Join the real-time community action, as we exchange ideas live on the #TChat stream, where Dan will moderate this week’s questions:

Q1: What does open leadership mean to you and why?

Q2: Can harmonious “soft skills” be developed in leaders at any age? Why or why not?

Q3: How does open leadership produce higher levels of performance and engagement within an organization?

Q4: What can business leaders do to encourage open self-leadership within all employee ecosystems?

Q5: What business technologies facilitate collaboration and open leadership?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Future Of Work: An Army Of Open Leaders

(Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled that business collaboration and learning expert, Dan Pontefract, will be a featured guest soon at #TChat events. To set the stage, Dan shares insights below, adapted from his new book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.)

Flat Army? What the heck is a Flat Army?

Work environments need not feel like a military camp or a ruthless command-and-control operation. The process of work should be fun, innovative, creative and very engaging. I believe that the best way to create a connected and engaged organization is by invoking a “Flat Army” mindset. Why? Let’s unpack that analogy:

To be flat is to be on a level surface, not in a hierarchy. To be in an army (from armata, the Latin term referenced in 1533, meaning a flotilla of vessels) is to be part of a large group of people who are committed to similar aims or beliefs.

An organization with a Flat Army ethos benefits from an unobstructed flow of coordinated, constructive, creative behaviors that arise from the common interests of employees, leaders, partners and customers. It is a shift from “me” to “we,” using collaborative, participative and growth behaviors. Flat Army is a playbook that moves organizations toward increased engagement and innovation.

Profile Of A Flat Army Leader

flatarmy_frontcoverIn our Flat Army model, a harmonious, connected leader creates a situation where both the team and the leader are as open as possible to performing business tasks and achieving objectives. In an environment where even mundane day-to-day tasks are conducted in this open manner, there is harmony among all contributors, regardless of rank.

Openness — both as a quality of the leader and an expectation of the team — fosters a harmonious relationship among all parties. It’s arguably a step in the right direction towards higher levels of engagement, productivity and business results. A harmonious, open leader connects with the team — parlaying the culture as if it can only be successful when all parties are united, equal in nature and committed to openness. And if we agree that leadership is for all, we also wish that everyone in an organization will participate as a harmonious, open leader.

Getting Under The Hood With Open Leaders

I define open leadership as the act of engaging others to influence and execute a coordinated and harmonious conclusion. Therefore, open leadership is essential for every Flat Army organization.

A.G. Lafley comes to mind when I think of stellar Flat Army leadership. His name may not ring a bell, but I can assure you, he sets a standard of excellence for openness and collaboration. Between 2000 and 2010, Mr. Lafley was the highly successful president and CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G) — the consumer products conglomerate with over $80 billion in revenue and over 125,000 employees worldwide.

Throughout his decade at the helm, he helped double total sales and quadruple profits, while increasing P&G’s market value by over $100 billion. Furthermore, he helped grow P&G’s portfolio of billion-dollar brands (such as Gillette, Pampers and Tide) from 10 to 24. How did he do it?

In his book The Game Changer: How Every Leader Can Drive Everyday Innovation, co-written with management thought leader, Ram Charan, Lafley refers to the unique relationship between openness and ideas:

Open architecture is the organizing principle that enables a business and its people to open themselves up to get ideas from anywhere at any time. P&G collaborates with anybody, anywhere, anytime. P&G likes unusual suspects. It will even compete with a company on one side of the street, and cooperate with it on the other. In an open innovation system, anything out there is fair game, even if competitors are sitting on it. And that’s fine with both partners because it works.

At P&G, Lafley opened up everything. He wanted his leaders to be more collaborative, and just as importantly, he wanted his employees to be open. As a results, magic happened. He branded this open architecture “Connect and Develop” or “C&D.” The framework reached across all employees, regardless of title, and it drove not only revenue and profitability, but also employee engagement.

Lafley and Charan explain:

The single characteristic of C&D is the willingness of all people at P&G to be psychologically open and to seriously consider new ideas, whatever the source, thus building a truly open global innovation network that can link up — and be first in line — with the most interesting thinkers and the best products to “reapply with pride.”

Lafley’s leadership example demonstrates what’s possible when a harmonious environment is created through a culture of open initiative. That is Flat Army in action. And perhaps that’s a key reason why P&G just rehired Lafley last month to lead the company forward.

The Open Leader Toolkit

Hopefully now the concept of open leadership is clear. But what are these social business and collaboration tools everyone keeps talking about? An open, Flat Army environment can’t thrive if leaders suffer from technology blindness or ignorance. In truth, tools for communication and collaboration are as integral to a Flat Army mindset as they are to employee engagement and productivity.

If your organization doesn’t embrace tools that support dynamic exchange of knowledge and ideas, then be a catalyst for change. Look for ways to integrate capabilities such as blogging, micro-blogging, expert networks, discussion forums, video sharing or instant messaging into existing platforms and workflows. Start using them to demonstrate that you are a connected, collaborative and participative leader who assists your team (and your organization) in achieving their goals and objectives — even as you strive for a high level of employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

What are you doing to help your organization embrace a Flat Army ethos? I invite you to share your ideas and experiences.

Photo: Dan Pontefract, author and head of learning and collaboration, TELUS(Author Profile: Dan Pontefract is the the author of “Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.” He is also Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS where he is responsible for the company’s overarching leadership development, learning and collaboration strategy. Visit for more about Dan’s professional experience, and his thoughts on the future of leadership and organizations.)


Image Credit: Pixabay